Sweet Tooth Leads to Passion for Astronomy

Who would have thought that Cadbury Astros sweets could spark a love of astronomy? But it did for Ms Denisha Pillay and eventually led to her graduating with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree cum laude, majoring in Mathematics and Astronomy.

Pillay’s passion for astronomy began after she started collecting astronomy trivia printed on boxes of her favourite candy – Astros, sparking a curiosity about the universe.

After matriculating at Crossmoor Secondary, Pillay was awarded a prestigious SKA undergraduate bursary to pursue her BSc degree in Astronomy at UKZN.

‘Throughout my undergraduate years, I experienced many challenges as it was a drastic jump from high school to university. But my passion and curiosity for astronomy and maths pushed me to work harder and perform at an adequate level,’ said Pillay.

Pillay says she was fortunate to meet the most ‘brilliant-minded people’, including friends and lecturers, during her undergraduate studies in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Some of her favourite modules included Astronomy courses in second and third year and it was the introduction to these Astronomy modules on unravelling the mysteries of the universe that drove her success.

‘Having known Denisha for a few years tutoring her when she had just started at UKZN, I can say unequivocally that in the passing of this time she has been truly remarkable in her passion, enthusiasm and curiosity for the mysterious gift that is Science,’ said the School’s Dr Byron Brassel. ‘With her obvious talent, she will be a “forever scholar”. For me, it has been a joy to watch her talents take flight. She is on her way to the stars.’

Currently Pillay is studying towards a BSc Honours degree and intends becoming an astrophysicist. Her favourite hobbies include reading and playing the guitar, which she says helps her to grow as an individual.

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan